Stewardship & Faithfulness In the Absence of the Master

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fourteen through thirty of the twenty-fifth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find Jesus transitioning from His recent parable concerning the ten virgins to now speaking another parable. It’s interesting and worth nothing when reading this particular passage of scripture that within this chapter each of the parables Jesus speaks unto His disciples pertain to and concern the kingdom of heaven, however, they pertain to the reality of the kingdom of heaven in the last days and in the end times. If there is one thing that is absolutely incredible concerning the parables which Jesus spoke concerning the kingdom of heaven is that there appears to be a present manifestation of the kingdom of heaven within the earth in the here and now, while there appears to be a future manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the last days. When I was in bible college I remember learning about a reality and principle called “the already but not yet,” and essentially this principle speaks to the reality that there is a present manifestation of something in the present, but there is a second manifestation of that same reality in the days to come. What I so love about the parables which Jesus spoke concerning the kingdom of heaven is that there appeared to have been a distinct reality concerning the kingdom of heaven in the earth right now in the present and within our hearts and lives. With that being said, however, there is also a second and a future revelation and manifestation of the kingdom of heaven that has yet to be manifested, experienced and revealed—one that deals exclusively and specifically with the last days. We dare not miss or lose sight of the tremendous significance of this fact, for if we are to truly understand the kingdom of heaven we must understand it in light of a present reality and present manifestation, as well as a future revelation and future manifestation. The more I read the words and parables which Jesus speaks concerning the kingdom of heaven, the more I am convinced that there is a present teaching of the kingdom of heaven, as well as a future teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven.

As I am sitting here this morning I can’t help but gripped and captivated with and by the fact that when we consider the parables which Jesus spoke concerning the kingdom of heaven, He recognized and understood that there were essentially two manifestations of the kingdom of heaven. This line or thought actually makes sense when you consider the fact that when Jesus came to the earth the very first time, He came to set up and establish a spiritual and supernatural kingdom within the hearts of men upon the face of the earth. When Jesus first came to the earth, He didn’t come in order to set up and establish an earthly and natural kingdom that would rival and combat the kingdoms of men. When Jesus came to the earth nearly two thousand years ago, He did not come to set up and establish a kingdom that would directly confront the Roman Empire. I am convinced that this is one of the greatest reasons why Jesus entered into the city of Jerusalem on what we would call Palm Sunday riding on a donkey rather than a horse. When Jesus entered into the city of Jerusalem, He didn’t enter it as a conquering king, but rather as a meek and lowly messiah whose burden was light and whose yoke was easy. We dare not miss the tremendous significance and importance of this reality, for to do so would be to miss the awesome reality of what Jesus truly came to the earth the first time to establish. The first time Jesus came to the earth, He did so in order that He might set up a kingdom in the midst of LLC other kingdoms, and a kingdom that would be set up in the midst of the empires of the earth. It is true that there is coming a day when Jesus will come and will return a second time in order that He might conquer the nations, the kingdoms and the empires of the earth, as well as setting up a physical and literal kingdom within and upon the earth, but that was not His intention, purpose or design when He came to the earth the first time. When Jesus came to the earth the first time, He came in order that He might set up and establish a spiritual kingdom that was unseen by the natural eye, and would be directly manifested within the hearts and lives of men and women.

I am convinced that in order to understand this future revelation and future manifestation of the kingdom of heaven, it is first necessary that we turn and direct our attention to the teachings which Jesus gave concerning the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the head and now—a manifestation of the kingdom of heaven among men within their hearts. I am convinced that the way we can truly come to understand the kingdom which Jesus came to the earth to establish the first time, we must not only begin in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which is recorded for us by the apostle Matthew in chapters five through seven of this New Testament gospel, but we must also take a look at and examine the parables which Jesus spoke concerning the kingdom of heaven. There is not a doubt in my mind that when we think about and when we consider the manifestation and reality of the kingdom of heaven, we must understand that there is a present manifestation of the kingdom of heaven that is experienced in the here and now by men and women, but there is also a future manifestation and reality of the kingdom of heaven—one that has not yet been experienced or manifested in the earth, nor even in heaven itself. When Jesus spoke unto the crowds, and when He spoke unto His disciples concerning the kingdom of heaven, He spoke to them concerning the kingdom of heaven which was manifested among them at that time, but He also made them aware of the tremendous reality that there was a future revelation and a future manifestation of the kingdom of heaven that would be experienced at the end of time and during the Last Days. Consider first if you will the words which Jesus spoke and taught concerning the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the earth through His famous Sermon on the Mount as is recorded in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Beginning with the first verse of the fifth chapter you will find the following words written and recorded by the apostle Matthew concerning the kingdom of heaven which would be manifested in the earth, and in all reality was already manifested within the earth. Jesus begins by speaking about and teaching concerning the attitudes of the kingdom of heaven, but then transitions to what I have referenced and called “the righteousness” of the kingdom of heaven as directly set against and juxtaposed to the righteousness of men which is according to the law of Moses, and even according to traditions, rules and regulations of men. Hear now the words which Jesus spoke concerning the attitudes of the kingdom of heaven beginning with the first verse of the fifth chapter:

“And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him: and HE opened His mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revel you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:1-12).

With these few verses Jesus brings us face to face with the attitudes and mindset of the kingdom, and that which separates the kingdom of heaven from the kingdoms and empires of the earth. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was more than simply a wonderful sermon with various talking points, and with pleasant words and smooth speech. The words which Jesus spoke within this particular sermon was designed and intended to bring His audience and those who listened to Him speak face to face with the tremendous reality concerning the kingdom of heaven and its manifestation within and upon the earth as it was found to be present within the hearts and lives of men and women. The first twelve verses of the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew are absolutely remarkable and astounding, for within them we are brought face to face with the awesome and wonderful reality concerning the attitude and mindset of the kingdom of heaven, and what separates the inhabitants of this kingdom from the kingdoms of the earth, and from the empires of the earth. What we find in the opening verses of the fifth chapter in the New Testament gospel of Matthew is a wonderful and powerful declaration concerning the overwhelming reality concerning the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth—a kingdom that was completely different from the various other kingdoms of the earth, which operated in their own unique ways and methods. There were certain attitudes concerning the kingdom of heaven, and that which separated it from the kingdoms of the earth—kingdoms that were ruled and governed by men. If there is one thing we must recognize and consider concerning the kingdom of heaven is that it is not a kingdom that is ruled and governed by man, but rather, it is a kingdom that is ruled and governed by the One who sits upon the throne in heaven. The manifestation of the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth is of such a nature and caliber that it has no government within and upon the earth, but rather a government that is found to be present in heaven alone. Though it is manifested and though it is experienced in the earth, the kingdom of heaven has its origin and its source in the very reality of heaven itself, and is completely and totally governed by the One who sits upon the throne. We dare not think for one minute that we can exercise any dominion and any authority over the kingdom of heaven that is present within and upon the earth, for such a thought would be completely and utterly absurd and ludacris. We would be incredibly naïve to think that we have any authority and any dominion over the kingdom of heaven that is manifested within and upon the earth, for the kingdom of heaven has as its source and its foundation the kingdom of God which originates from and is centered upon the throne and the One who sits upon the throne in heaven.

With all of that being said,, if you continue reading the words which Jesus spoke in this Sermon on the Mount, you will find that Jesus transitioned from speaking concerning the attitudes of the kingdom of heaven to speaking about the righteousness of the kingdom—that which would separate the kingdom of heaven from religion and from the religious systems of men. If I am being honest with you who are reading these words, I would dare say that it is the attitudes of the kingdom of heaven that separate and set apart the kingdom of heaven from the kingdoms of the earth, and it is the righteousness of the kingdom which separates and distinguishes the kingdom of heaven from religion and from the religious systems of the earth. If we are to have a proper understand of the kingdom of heaven as it is manifested within and upon the earth, we must understand its manifestation in direct relation to the religion of man, as well as the righteousness of man, for the kingdom of heaven is completely contrary to both realities which are so common and prevalent among the hearts and lives of men and women in this age and generation—even in and among the pews and seats of our churches today. Within the first twelve verses of the fifth chapter we are directly confronted with the attitudes of the kingdom, and that which separates the inhabitants of this kingdom from the inhabitants of the kingdoms of the earth, while beginning with the thirteenth verse of this chapter we find and experience the righteousness of the kingdom as it is directly set against the righteousness of man which is found to be present within and upon the earth. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke unto all those gathered before Him on this day concerning the righteousness of the kingdom and its direct opposition to the righteousness of men which is according to law, traditions, rules and regulations:

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his Saviour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it give them light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:13-20).

With these words Jesus brings us face to face with the tremendous reality that there is a righteousness of the kingdom which is completely and utterly different from the righteousness which is of men—a righteousness which is according to the law, according to traditions, according to rules and according to rules. There is a righteousness that is produced with, from and by the law of Moses, and it is a righteousness that is an external and outward righteousness which appears before men. In fact, if you continue reading the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that this righteousness of the kingdom of heaven is not only directly set against and opposed to the righteousness of man which is according to the Law of Moses, but it is also a righteousness which is hidden, concealed and is not visible in the eyes of men. If you read the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will be brought face to face with the incredible reality that the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven is in fact a righteousness that has absolutely nothing to do with external realities and that which is visible on the surface to those which are present before and around us. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the sixth chapter you will quickly come to understand and recognize that the righteousness of the kingdom is a righteousness that deals with the heart of an individual rather than external appearances and realities. It is in the fifth chapter where we first recognize and come to understand that the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven is an inward righteousness—one that deals specifically and exclusively with the hearts of men—and this reality continues on into the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the sixth chapter, you will find that Jesus goes on to speak of that which is done in the sight of men in order to be seen, witnessed, observed and heard by them, while there is a righteousness which is performed in the secret place—a righteousness that is hidden and is only visible to the Father in heaven who sees in secret and rewards openly. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke concerning this inner righteousness which is seen and observed by the Father who sits upon the throne in heaven:

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doesn’t thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doesn’t alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand forth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which Seth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayers, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayer, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which Seth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. But not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Moreover when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigured their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which Seth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-18).

What we find in the fifth and sixth chapters of the New Testament gospel of Matthew are absolutely incredible and astounding realities concerning the kingdom of heaven and its manifestation and revelation within and upon the earth. We dare not miss or lose sight of the awesome and wonderful reality concerning the kingdom of heaven and its manifestation within and upon the earth, for when you come to the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find Jesus beginning to speak unto the crowds in parables concerning the kingdom of heaven and its present manifestation and reality within and upon the earth. In the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find and encounter Jesus teaching concerning the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven, as it is found within the hearts and lives of men. In the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find a wonderful and powerful teaching of Jesus the Christ concerning the kingdom of heaven, and what that kingdom looks like among men and women within and upon the earth. The Sermon on the Mount is a wonderful and powerful teaching concerning the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth as it is set directly in the midst of the kingdoms and empires of the earth, and is found within the hearts and lives of men and women. Jesus clearly set forth the attitudes of the kingdom, and then proceeds to demonstrate and teach the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven, as directly set against the righteousness of men which is according to the law, as well as according to the traditions of men. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this awesome reality, for within the New Testament gospel of Matthew—not only do we encounter a wonderful and powerful teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven, and what it looks like among men and women within and upon the earth, but we also find Jesus later using parables to teach and speak concerning the kingdom of heaven. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the thirteenth chapter you will find the first of a series of parables which Jesus spoke unto the crowds and multitudes concerning the kingdom of heaven—a reality which Jesus sought to teach openly, yet conceal within parables. I am completely and absolutely convinced that only the true and genuine heart that was earnestly seeking Jesus the Christ and His kingdom would understand that which Jesus spoke concerning the kingdom of heaven. I am convinced that the parables concerning the kingdom of heaven were designed and intended to separate and distinguish between those who came unto Jesus as spectators and bystanders and those who were true, authentic and genuine seekers. It is in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew that we find Jesus beginning to speak in parables in order that He might teach concerning the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke concerning the kingdom—words which He spoke and taught using parables in the hearing of those who gathered before and unto Him to hear and listen to Him speak:

“The same day went Jesus out of the house, and say by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto Him, so that He went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore, and He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deep ness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:1-9).

“Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tales among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tires also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didn’t not thou sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it takes? He said unto them, AN enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he saved, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tapes, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” Matthew 13:24-30).

“Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and be cometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof” (Matthew 13:31-32).

“Another parable spake He unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matthew 13:33).

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyers that field. Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:44-50).

The words which are found in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew are words which help illustrate the awesome and wonderful reality concerning the kingdom of heaven, as Jesus sought to teach thy mysteries concerning the kingdom of heaven. When we come to the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we are again confronted with parables which Jesus spoke concerning the kingdom of heaven—albeit this time, the parables which were spoken were spoken unto the disciples of Jesus themselves. Within the first thirteen verse of the twenty-fifth chapter we find Jesus teaching the parable concerning the ten virgins who each went out to meet the bridegroom, and brought their lamps with them. Five of the virgins were foolish, while five of the virgins were wise, and wisdom was and is discerned within his parable by those who had enough oil for their lamps in order to last throughout the night and be present for them when the bridegroom actually comes and is manifested at the midnight hour. When you come to the fourteenth verse of this particular chapter within the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find Jesus telling a parable of a man who traveled into a far country, and before he left, distributed talents among his servants to steward while he was gone. Unto one servant he gave five talents, unto another servant he gave two talents, and unto another servant he gave one talent. Before he left, each of his servants were given a talent and a measure of the wealth of this householder which they were to steward based on their ability. Jesus used this particular reality to not only speak concerning the reality of Him learning and traveling to a far away country and land—namely heaven—but also that prior to His departure, He distributed that which was to be stewarded by His servants and disciples who remained upon the earth. That which we must recognize and understand concerning the words which Jesus spoke in this particular parable is not only that the householder distributed of his wealth unto each of his servants, but also that he did so according to the ability of each servant. That which was given unto each of the servants was given as a direct result of that which they were capable of handling in his absence. How absolutely incredible it is that the householder waited until he was traveling to a far away country to give unto his servants in order that they might steward that which was valuable to him in his absence. STEWARDING IN THE ABSENCE! That which we must take into consideration, and that which we must consider when reading the words which Jesus spoke in this particular passage of Scripture is that which we are and that which we have been entrusted with in the absence of the Master. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand, it’s that we have each been entrusted with a measure and portion of that which is valuable unto the Master, and we have been entrusted with it in order that we might steward it in His absence. The Master knew He was going away, and that He was traveling to a far away and distant land and country, and before He went away, He entrusted His servants and His stewards with that which was previous and valuable unto Him. When the master knew that He was traveling to a far away and distant country, He gave gifts and talents unto His servants who remained upon the earth, in order that they might steward those gifts and talents in His absence.

As we think about and consider this particular parable, we must recognize that Jesus didn’t leave any of the servants out. This parable doesn’t seem to suggest that there were additional servants beyond these three servants, and as such, the householder gave unto each of his servants that which they were capable of handling. Prior to his departure, the householder gave unto each servant a certain measure of responsibility with that which belonged to him, in order that when he came back and returned, he would not only be able to measure their stewardship, but would also be able to see they were able to accomplish with what he left unto them. If we are to understand this particular parable, we must understand it in terms of the Master journeying to the right hand of His Father who is in heaven, and how in His absence, He has entrusted us with that which is valuable and precious to Him. Each and every one of us have been given a certain and specific measure which we have been called to steward and are responsible over. What we must understand is that no one else can steward that which has been given unto us, for it is up to us and only us to correctly and properly steward that which the master has given unto us while He is away on a long and distant journey. Perhaps the single greatest reality concerning this parable is that the householder and master will come back, and he will return, and he will take into account and reckon unto us according to that which we have been entrusted with. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that not only have we been entrusted with that which belongs to the Master, but the master is going to return, and will call into account a full record of how we stewarded that which He left unto and entrusted into our care. The question we must ask ourselves is what we have done with that which belongs to the Master, and whether or not we are being faithful with that which the master has entrusted into our care. What are we doing with that which has been entrusted unto us, and are we correctly and properly handling that which the master has entrusted unto us. This entire parable centers upon one single and one central reality—namely, that of faithfulness and particularly a faithfulness in stewardship and responsibility. THE FAITHFULNESS OF STEWARDSHIP! THE FAITHFULNESS OF RESPONSIBILITY! Oh that we would come face to face with the tremendous reality that we have been called to a life of faithfulness in the absence of the master, and have been called to steward faithfully, and have been called to correctly and properly handle that which belongs to the Master. Oh that we would recognize and understand that that which has been entrusted into our care does not belong to us, but instead belongs to the Master, and He can and will take into account that which we have done with what belongs to Him. There will come a day of reckoning that will take place, and it is in that day when we will be face to face with an account of that which we did with what belongs to the Master in His absence. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are being faithful and whether or not we are faithfully stewarding over that which the Master has given unto and entrusted unto us.

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